Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Rest (01/17/13)
- TITLE: Preston's Promise
By Christina Banks
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The two of us, in the same bed, at the same time.
But it won’t happen tonight. I roll over on my cot and look at the clock; Two in the morning. Groaning I sit up and rub the sleep from my eyes. Four hours of sleep. I’m going to need a cup of coffee.
The aroma of a fresh brew beckons me to the kitchen. A faint light over the sink illuminates the full coffee pot. Carlie must have anticipated my need. Wonderful woman. I pour myself a cup.
I quietly walk into my mother-in-law’s parlor, turned sickroom, where Carlie sits holding her father’s hand. The faithful daughter. A well of love springs up for this woman that I married. In the months of his lingering illness, she has not spoken one word of complaint. I wish I could say the same about myself.
Carlie sees me in the doorway and gives me a small smile. I see the weariness in her eyes though she tries to hide it. She pats her father’s hand and rises from her chair. She kisses him on the forehead before coming to the door.
I wrap my arms around my wife and hold her. “His sleep is disturbed tonight,” she speaks into my sweatshirt. “Mama noticed it too when she came in a while ago. I think he’s troubled about something, Preston.”
I look over her head at the man in the bed. His body is wasting away. He hardly resembles the robust farmer I remember. He stirs and groans. The cancer is so far spreading that the medication can’t keep up with his pain.
“Go get some rest.” I rub her back. “I’ll sit with him.” She nods but stays in my embrace for a moment longer.
Finally, Carlie pulls away walks toward the spare bedroom. At least the cot will be warm for her.
I take my place in the bedside chair, just as I have been every night for the last three months. The man stirs, and his eyelids flutter, but do not open.
“Hey, Pops.” I say, reaching out for his hand. “It’s me, Preston.” There is no response, not that I expected one. He hasn’t opened his eyes for two days now. “I’m going to sit with you for a while.” I say, feeling a little foolish for my continued monologue. Carlie assured me that speaking to her father was important, so I do it despite my self-consciousness.
“How about I read to you for a while?” I reach for my Bible and page to the place I left off yesterday, Matthew 11. I read of the rejection of John the Baptist and of Christ, and then the wonderful invitation that Christ gives.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy lade, and I will give you rest.”
My father-in-law begins to toss his head and mumble. I take hold of his hand and talk in a soothing tone, as I’ve seen Carlie do so many times.
“I’m here, Pops.” I stroke his hand. “I wish you could tell me what is troubling you. God knows, Pops. He understands even when we don’t.” The man continues to toss his head. I try to think of what he might be worried about. I put myself in his place and immediately I know. “You’re worried about Mom? You don’t have to be. Carlie and I will look after her. You have my word.” The troubled expression lessens a fraction.
“Rest easy, Pops.” I reassure him. “I promise to take care of her.”
His body stills and the plains of his face relax. I pat his hand and am surprised when he squeezes back slightly.
“I love you, Pops.” I say, picking up my Bible again.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I look over at my father-in-law. He looks so peaceful now. His face is no longer etched with pain, his breathing no longer labored. I put my ear next to his mouth. There is no sound, no movement of air. Tears pool in my eyes.
“I won’t forget.” I say to his empty shell. “I promise.”
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